The dear sheep are gone.
Matilda is in California now. She is at a 280-acre organic ranch on the northern California coast, run by a vet, who fell in love with her. It's not just me who thinks Matilda is the queen. Tillie is already the undisputed monarch there, ruling over the other sheep and the hapless human who still believes she owns Matilda. She'll find out soon enough.
Marsha, Lena and Blossom went to my friend Wanda's place about an hour from me. Matilda's son Peanut from 2014 went along, too. He and auntie Blossom were too close to be separated.
Lena is her own woman. She was not going to go gently into that dark van: Half way up the path, Lena threw herself on the ground ("Dead sheep! I'm a dead sheep! You don't want to bother with a dead sheep now."). Wanda and I just looked at each other, knowing what it is like to get a limp sheep to its feet. ("Get up Lena. We know you're not dead!")
When the little group went off in Wanda's truck I went back to the barn, sat down at the stoop where Marcia used to rest her cheek against mine, and cried. The remaining 4 babies crowded around me. I think we were all feeling a bit lost and needed closeness.
Those babies, now 3 full-grown wethers and a sweet little ewe, are also at Wanda's at this point. Dougie dreams of being a house sheep: He will sit with his head on your lap and go into ovine ecstasy. Dougie is your childhood teddy bear come alive -- you know, the teddy bear that was about your size, and you pretended he was alive even though you kind of knew he wasn't. Well, now he is.
Dougie's twin brother Leno (guess whose son he is!) is a lovable rascal. He loves to use the gate to the barn yard as a ladder so he can greet you at eye level. He has the most sparkling black eyes. If you are very, very lucky Leno will give you a sheepie kiss with his black nose.
Thomas (for Doubting Thomas) and his twin sister Pretty (because she is) look at you from a few yards away, thinking "what are you really up to?" I used to feel obliged to say "nothing! I didn't do anything!" Now Wanda has taken up the echo.
Hard as it was to let them go, it makes more sense for me to raise meat lambs seasonally. I can raise a much larger flock at my colleague and friend Janet's 70-acre farm nearby. But it would be too iffy in the winter to go up there twice a day every day. And then there is the lambing season, when you really need to do barn checks every two hours. So, year-round, full-cycle shepherding is out. The practicalities of farming won.
One new addition to my tiny-mighty farm is pigs. Jim and I dipped our toes into raising pastured Berkshire hogs. So far, so good. More on that later, because pigs have pride: They want their own blog entry.